A. THE CAUSE OF COMPLAINING – EXODUS 15:22-24
“So Moses brought Israel from the Red Sea; then they went out into the Wilderness of Shur. And they went three days in the wilderness and found no water. Now when they came to Marah, they could not drink the waters of Marah, for they were bitter. Therefore the name of it was called Marah. And the people complained against Moses, saying, ‘What shall we drink?’” (Ex. 15:22-24).
1. Two critical responses at the Red Sea. First, “The children of Israel cried out to the Lord” (14:10). Second, “They said to Moses . . . you have taken us away to die in the desert” (14:11).
2. Can you criticize when the Lord leads you? “The Lord went before them by day in a pillar of cloud” (13:21).
3. The problem. “They went out into the wilderness of Shur, and they went three days . . . no water” (15:22). Some criticize at the first problem they face.
4. They were disillusioned. “They came to Marah, they could not drink the waters of Marah, for they were bitter” (15:23).
5. The focus of their complaint. “The people complained against Moses.”
a. Because he knew the desert.
b. Because he was the leader.
c. Because of their background they complained about Egyptian task masters.
d. Because of habit. Some naturally see the negatives.
6. Their conditions: blistered feet, parched lips, treeless horizon, scared and tired, hope dashed, ideals shattered.
7. They forgot the miracles of God, i.e., the Red Sea, the plagues in Egypt.
8. How can we complain about God – or to God – when the cloud (God’s presence) is right before us?
Was the water bitter to Israel because their criticism was bitter to God?
9. Israel trusted God when everything was right, but complained at first real problem.
10. We go from “highs” to “lows,” i.e., from great high praise worship by “all the women” (15:20), to lowly criticism by all.
11. Remember we will face trials in our desert. It’s how we respond that causes us to grow in Christ. “We glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience” (Rom. 5:3).
12. The wilderness and Marah are a school to teach us, (a) the disappointments of life, (b) how to adjust to difficulties, (c) the plan of God for us.
B. THE CURE OF CRITICISM – EXODUS 15:25-26
1. The answer is in God. “He (Moses) cried out to the Lord, and the Lord shows him a tree . . . the waters were made sweet” (15:25).
2. The best way to cure a chronic complainer is prayer. Moses “cried out to the Lord” (15:25).
3. Besides each Marah grows a tree to make the troubles “sweet.”
4. The people were too occupied with their problems to pray to God, or to see the tree.
5. Sometimes God uses a natural means for supernatural deliverance. “The Lord showed him (Moses) a tree” (15:25).
a. Did a live tree have to die?
b. Was it the only tree there?
c. Did the tree have curative properties?
d. Was healing in their obedience?
6. The tree is probably a “type” of the cross of Jesus, He can save us.
7. Israel was tested with a problem and failed. “He (the Lord) tested them” (15:25).
8. God’s promise. “If you will listen carefully to the voice of the LORD your God and do what is right in his sight . . . then I will not make you suffer any of the diseases I sent on the Egyptians” (15:26, LB).
9. Jehovah Rapha. “I am the Lord who heals you” (15:26).
C. EVERYONE NEEDS AN ELIM
“Then they came to Elim, where there were twelve wells of water and seventy palm trees; so they camped there by the waters” (Ex. 15:27).
1. Every desert wilderness has its Marah (testing) at Elim (rest and refreshing).
2. God tenderly provides an Elim to strengthen us.
3. Elim was not Canaan, but only some enjoyable “blessings,” the blessings we get in life are not heaven. We only enjoy a foretaste of glory.
4. Do not stay murmuring at Marah, press on to Elim.
D. THEIR CRITICISM WAS NOT CURED
1. You can’t stay in Elim and arrive where God sends you. “They journeyed from Elim . . . came to the wilderness of sin . . . then the whole congregation . . . complained against Moses” (16:1-2).
2. Is criticism against God? “Oh that we had died by the hand of the Lord in the land of Egypt” (16:3).
3. The good old days were not that good. “In the land of Egypt when we sat by the pots of meats and when we ate bread to the full” (16:3). (a) They forgot their complaints, (b) they forgot they were slaves, (c) they forgot they were God’s chosen people, heading for the Promised Land
4. Old habits always come back to haunt you.
E. TEN PRINCIPLES TO OVERCOME CRITICISM
1. Stop trying to blame someone or something for your problems. They are what they are.
2. Assume total responsibility for your life and thoughts. You have to find a way to get out of your dilemma, and you have to be positive.
3. When you are tempted to think negatively (complain) realize that’s not you. Be a positive person, not a negative one.
4. Realize you are a child of God following His plan for your life.
5. Accept every negative situation as a school to learn victory.
6. The trap of “criticism” can be broken by prayer and the power of God found in His Word.
7. Memorize a Bible promise from God, and repeat it constantly.
8. Your complaints may make a negative situation even worse.
9. Your negative condition will probably not continue, so be optimistic.
10. When you are tempted to criticize, ask; “What is God teaching me, and how should I respond?”
If you have never really accepted Jesus as your personal Savior, would you do it right now? Do not delay or put it off. If you would like to receive Christ by faith, pray this simple prayer in your heart:
Dear Lord, I acknowledge that I am a sinner. I believe Jesus died for my sins on the cross, and rose again the third day. I repent of my sins. By faith I receive the Lord Jesus as my Savior. You promised to save me, and I believe You, because You are God and cannot lie. I believe right now that the Lord Jesus is my personal Savior, and that all my sins are forgiven through His precious blood. I thank You, dear Lord, for saving me. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
If you prayed that prayer, God heard you and saved you. I personally want to welcome you to the family of God and rejoice with you.
All PBC lessons are available online at trbc.org/pbc. Go to www.Hopenow.tv for the current program schedule.
Dr. Towns' email is ELTowns@liberty.edu
Dr. Towns’ web address is www.elmertowns.com